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Penthouse Pizazz

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Photos by Mikiko Kikuyama  

When the owners of this Manhattan duplex penthouse purchased it in 2012, they liked the general layout but not so much the original developer-level finishes. They asked architects Ben Pell and Tate Overton of New York City firm PellOverton to help make it their own. “In addition to upgrading and updating the apartment,” Pell says, “we felt there was opportunity to rethink the overall feel of the space without radically changing the layout.”

Their design goal? Focusing on a few key areas to make the apartment feel more open and continuous. The original kitchen, for example, opened to the living space, but the height and mismatched assortment of beams, sprinkler lines, and light fixtures on the ceiling made the spaces feel unruly and disconnected. To remedy this, the architects concealed these items with a series of dropped ceiling panels that integrate the lighting and sprinklers as a single, cleanly organized plane. In the study, they replaced the original floor-to-ceiling wall with a lower-height, custom millwork wall that serves as a storage and media area for the living room and defines the space of the entry foyer without disrupting the continuity of the ceiling.

A neutral color palette for the overall finishes (wood floors, millwork cabinetry, stone, and tiles) contrasts with intermittent pops of color—for instance, on the center wall of the stair leading to the terrace level, the interior of the fireplace’s surrounding cabinet, and the interior surfaces of the media wall and study shelving. “While the existing walls, floor, and ceiling of the apartment were thought of as a kind of neutral shell,” Overton says, “these moments of color were conceived as revealing some kind of softer, hidden interior.”

Materials were selected to provide variation without losing consistency. In the kitchen, this meant darker gray stained white oak for cabinetry and lighter gray linear-patterned tile and stone with a bright white glass backsplash and peninsula surround. Custom millwork walls and cabinets throughout were painted with a hard lacquer finish to give them a furniture-grade sheen. A new, deep millwork screen surrounds and unites the window wall as a single design element, concealing the large heating and cooling units that once protruded obtrusively into the apartment. The result is a loft-like New York City living space that is open, airy, and anything but ordinary. 

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